So you may have heard about changes to college football's recruiting rules.
NCAA rules are in many instances extremely stupid, so typically reform of them should be met with applause. Well, with these new rules, despite some positive movement in certain areas, the NCAA still blew it, because of course they did.
In general, it's 'rich get richer' stuff, and as Michigan State is in upper 20% or so of college football programs in terms of money, this stuff will probably help us in the long run, though I think it hurts in the here and now (you could take most of the commentary in this piece and amplify it exponentially if you're a Purdue or worse, like a Central Michigan). But 19th in the country is still 6th in the Big Ten, and 7th once you throw in Notre Dame. I wouldn't celebrate too much.
A reason to panic
Let's go from least panic-inducing to most panic-inducing and split the problems into two categories: a category of problems that hurt MSU's chances to win football games, and another category of things that I think make the recruiting process 'worse' for the participants involved and college football as a whole.
Rivals compiled a list of proposed changes from the NCAA. I know some of these passed, at least one of them didn't.
'Hey, pretty glad this didn't pass' rule:
13-2: Will allow off-campus contact with recruits beginning the first day of junior year in high school and communication with recruits on or after July 1 after the completion of the recruit's sophomore year in high school.
This will almost certainly pass someday. But not this year.
A change like this maybe makes sense with an early signing period, but without something like that, it functionally just tacks another year to a recruiting process that many coaches and families don't seem to enjoy very much as it is.
'Let kids be kids for a little while longer' is probably oversimplifying the nuances of this change but seriously man, let kids be kids.
The 'uhhh, these weren't rules already? WTF' rules:
12-1: Would establish a uniform definition of actual and necessary expenses.
12-6: Would allow student-athletes and prospects to receive actual and necessary expenses for training, coaching, health insurance, etc. from a governmental entity.
13-1: Will allow schools to treat prospects like student-athletes for purposes of applying recruiting regulations once a National Letter of Intent or signed offer of admission or financial aid is received.
13-4: Would eliminate the requirement that institutions provide materials such as the banned-drug list and Academic Progress Rate data to recruits.
13-7: Would eliminate restrictions on publicity once a prospective student-athlete has signed a National Letter of Intent or written offer of financial aid or admission.
13-8: Would deregulate camps and clinics employment rules related to both recruits and current student-athletes. Senior football prospects would be allowed to participate in camps and clinics.
14-1: Eliminates academic regulations that are covered elsewhere and directly supported by institutional academic policy.
16-1: Would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA national office to provide an award to student-athletes any time after initial full-time enrollment.
16-4: Would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA to pay for medical and related expenses for a student-athlete.
16-5: Would change all Bylaw 16 references to a student-athlete's spouse, parents, family members or children to "family member," establish a specific definition of "family member," and permit specified benefits to such individuals
16-6: Would allow institutions to provide reasonable entertainment in conjunction with competition or practice.
MSU problems: not that I can see.
College football problems: I don't know guys, these seem like generally reasonable and responsible changes to me, meaning, LOL, they probably didn't pass.
Then you have, 'Wait, players have had to pay for all this stuff out of pocket? WTF' rules:
12-3: Would allow a student-athlete to receive $300 more than actual and necessary expenses, provided the expenses come from an otherwise permissible source.
12-4: Would permit individuals to receive actual and necessary competition-related expenses from outside sponsors, so long as the person is not an agent, booster, or representative of a professional sports organization.
12-5: Would allow student-athletes in sports other than tennis to receive up to actual and necessary competition-related expenses based on performance from an amateur team or event sponsor.
16-2: Would allow conferences, an institution, the U.S. Olympic Committee, a national governing body or the awarding agency to provide actual and necessary expenses for a student-athlete to receive a non-institutional award or recognition for athletics or academic accomplishments. Expenses could also be provided for parents/legal guardians, a spouse or other relatives as well.
16-3: Would allow institutions, conferences or the NCAA to pay for other academic support, career counseling or personal development services that support the success of the student-athlete.
16-7: Would allow schools to provide actual and necessary expenses to student-athletes representing the institution in practice and competition (including expenses for activities/travel that are incidental to practice or competition) as well as in noncompetitive events like goodwill tours and media appearances.
16-8: Would allow student-athletes to receive actual and necessary expenses and "reasonable benefits" associated with a national team practice and competition. The proposal would also allow institutions to pay for any number of national team tryouts and championship events.
MSU problems: I guess these would mean the AD would have to pay more every time a player like, made an Olympic team or got invited to a senior showcase, but that probably should have been the case, rather than passing that cost to the athlete. Yeah, there's probably a lot of potential for paying players more than is 'actual and necessary' but...
College football problems: this is a small step towards reversing the drastic difference between what the average football player makes for his university and what he gets in return. And if you're a swimmer or tennis player and you get invited to a national team, you get some help from your university in return for the publicity they get that they surely aren't compensating you for. Good.
'NCAA all up in your postal service' rules:
13-5-A: Would eliminate restrictions on sending printed recruiting materials to recruits.
MSU problems: I don't know, how's our graphic design and art program? Stuff like this was pretty creative, is this gonna lead to more stuff like that? If so, A++.
College football problems: LOL who am I kidding, Auburn is probably building pinatas made of $100 dollar bills RIGHT NOW and those pinatas are also filled with something and that something is not candy (it's more money). Allegedly.
So this doesn't seem so bad. Well, we're hitting the turn:
Unlimited Coach Deployment
11-4: Would remove limits on the number of coaches who can recruit off-campus at any one time, the so-called "baton rule."
MSU problems: Think about MSU's staff. Do you think MSU has coaches on the staff who aren't really good recruiters? If you do, the benefit of having them out on the recruiting trail is going to be less so than the benefit of staffs with a bunch of really good recruiters. If your strength is player development, you want more of your coaches to be on campus and fewer of your coaches off campus. This rule sets up opposite incentives.
College Football problems: Welp, sure is gonna suck for some assistant coaches. I would imagine a 'baton rule' like this would encourage giving assistants 'breaks' from the recruiting trail, particularly during the off-season. Now there's going to be more pressure to have more (all?) coaches out on the road more often. Particularly if you're trying to use face to face contact to establish a relationship in a world of...
Unlimited Recruiting Contact
13-3: Would eliminate restrictions on methods and modes of communication
MSU problems: Mark Dantonio now (apparently) has a public twitter account. Does Mark Dantonio want a public twitter account? Like, maybe. But the timing seems like someone is telling him, 'you need to be on Twitter'. And while I think Dantonio is more charismatic than he's given credit for, him getting sucked into a social media 'race to the bottom' with someone like Lane Kiffin probably isn't going to favor MSU.
Narduzzi has also been much more active on Twitter the last week or so. You'd think more Narduzzi would be great, just from an entertainment standpoint and oh, it very much is. But it's all fun and games until he accidentally twitpics a photo of him forcing linebackers to practice scrape-exchanges over a flowing field of lava. Now all of a sudden the football program is front-paged on Deadspin for 'extreme practice conditions'.
Who wants to bet something like this happened over the past month:
Member of MSU's compliance department: Coach Dantonio, we've got great news!
Dantonio: Nick Saban's operating system failed?
Compliance: Haha, we can only hope. No, the NCAA has lifted contact restrictions from college coaches to high school recruits. We don't have to monitor that stuff any more? Isn't that awesome?
Dantonio: *Pauses midway through bite of Cheerio's, no milk, no sugar, doctor's orders. Stares in horror*
Compliance: As many calls as you want or need. If you're on vacation, you can recruit. If you're at church, you can recruit. Eating dinner? No need to stop recruiting!
Dantonio: No! Why? I don't want to do that, and I'm sure the kids don't want me to do that either. We both have lives.
Compliance: Oh, but you'll have to. Think about how many phone calls Nick Saban is making right now, while you're eating food like an idiot. Let that thought burn away at your competitive, type-A brain, the thought that you're being out-hustled. Think about it. Think about it.
Dantonio: *spoon drops to the ground in slow motion* Nooooooooooo!
Look, I'm sure not every coach hates recruiting, just like not every person hates telemarketing by cold-call. But I think the people who enjoy doing these things are... how can I put this in terms that won't offend anyone... they're fucking crazy.
And there are players who definitely enjoy the process of being recruited. But there seem to be more who have a 'whew, glad that's over' view after they commit, and the reactions I've seen from recruits towards this rule has pretty overwhelming been, "uhhhhhh.... That seems pretty bad." so far.
I guess from the competitive aspect, it's like, which coach do I think is more likely to make that extra phone call: Harlon Barnett or Bobby Williams?
And you know that deal where Dantonio tries to have kids go home and talk things over with their parents before committing? Seems like a pretty nice thing to do. I'd guess you can say goodbye to that, and hello to more pressure to have the kid commit before he leaves campus. The last thing you need as a football coach is every other school on the kid's offer list blowing up his phone and social media and email and mailbox when he gets off campus to mull things over (or meeting him on his front doorstep when he gets back home, Tim Beckman).
College football problems: But the competitive disadvantage is still questionable. Maybe it'll end up hurting MSU's recruiting, maybe not.
What I'm pretty confident will end up happening is some recruits are going to get harassed by under-pressure coaching staffs. As in, more so now than before.
I've read a couple rebuttals to this idea, that calls, texts, and emails would be 'self-regulating', that kids could ignore it, turn their phones off, change their phone numbers, but that's already messed up. Now the burden has been switched from the coach (don't exceed this limit of contact) to the player (don't let coaches contact you). Why is that something we want?
No, the coach who contacts the player the most isn't always, or even necessarily most of the time, going to win the recruitment. But every time a player mentions 'School X has been recruiting me the hardest' or 'Coaching staff X has been showing me the most love' the more coaches will be inclined to over-do it, and the more they're going to see this as invading their social life, and the more recruits are likely to shut things down. And if a coach at a smaller school thinks he's going to be able to make up for his school's fiscal or facilities disadvantages by talking with a kid more than anyone else... man, I just really think this is going to be a net negative for the lives of coaches and their families, and players and their families.
I mean, for example, from the rivals article linked above, there's this (emphasis mine):
"Wow, man, that's going to be kind of difficult on players," Mathis said. "Some kids have to do a lot of work on grades and stuff. I mean, it's already crazy. Before I cut down to a top 10, my phone used to ring about 30 times a day. That's crazy, and that's with the old rules. You're going to see a lot of kids committing quick just to make it stop."
A sentiment you see repeated elsewhere on this subject.
Recruiting dead periods are probably a good idea. Though there are times where I'm sure a recruit wishes they could get in touch with a coach during one of these periods, and vice-versa, it still seems really good for both parties that they get forced to take a break for a while. Limits also seem like a good idea. If coaches and players think the ceiling needs to be higher, then raise the ceiling. Don't blow the damn roof off.
Player personnel staffs who can recruit:
11-2: Would eliminate the rules defining recruiting coordination functions that must be performed only by a head or assistant coach.
MSU problems: Now here's the big one from the competitive aspect, in my opinion. On-campus staff allowed to do recruiting work. Can MSU afford this? Probably. Will MSU implement it? I kinda think not, at least not to the extent of our rivals until it truly becomes S.O.P. elsewhere. MSU has sunk a lot of money into football the past few years and somehow, I imagine the request of "Hey we need recruiting coordinators for our recruiting coordinators" is not going to be the easiest sell right now.
Meanwhile, you want a list of three programs that probably have one of these departments up and running right now, right this second, and probably already did last year: Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State. Fun, fun, fun.
College football problems:
In the past, the trade-off was, if you wanted to have Trooper Taylor or Ed Orgeron reeling in recruits and (allegedly) committing NCAA violations, you at least had to put up with maybe not top notch positional coaching. Now just throw these type dudes into your 'Incoming Student Athletes' Staff and you get most of the good, none of the bad. For a price.
While these staff wouldn't be allowed to recruit off campus (Yet. Thankfully.), they'd be able to do all the rest of the stuff. This mess is so NCAA: "Well, we're having problems enforcing some of these rules. And some coaches are complaining they're spending less time coaching and too much time on the road or working on next years class. So, what we're gonna do is, empower these on-campus staffs to make college athletics more bloated and expensive."
Instead of trying to give coaches more time, you know, coaching, by enforcing rules, they're eliminating a bunch of rules that will likely force more of a time commitment, and then offering this extra staff thing as the solution to the new problem. The NCAA will fix your rabbit problem right up sir, all you need to do is introduce these foxes...
I see you NCAA
And despite their best efforts, that organization is where the buck stops. On the most controversial changes, the NCAA is throwing in the towel because they couldn't uphold their policies.
And I think I'd be a little less worked up over this if they would just say that instead of this word salad:
"These new rules represent noteworthy progress toward what can only be described as more common sense rules that allow schools more discretion in decision-making," Emmert said in a statement following the board's vote.
Look. Without subpoena power, it must be really tough to monitor calls, and texts, and emails, and direct messages and everything else. It must be really tough to monitor how many members of a staff are where, and who is sending what. If you need to change some rules because they aren't being enforced properly, well, these changes are still probably the wrong way to go about that, but you're at least starting from the right place. Don't pretend 13-3 is about the student athlete. Does it seem like the student athlete was consulted here? Is the sudent athlete ever consulted in these sorts of decisions? Shake my head, NCAA. Shake my damn head.
Finally, most reports on these changes are name-checking Urban Meyer as someone who might run into issues about being a human being with these rule changes. And that's fair enough, because get a load of this madman:
He head-butted his helmeted charges before games. He wailed "Nooooo!" as if facing ruin, when practice got rained out. He sprinted 40 yards down the practice field to get in the face of a player who ran the wrong route. As Irish flanker Joey Getherall remembers it, one time Meyer even punched him in the shoulder pads, bare-knuckled.
Film sessions were no calmer: Meyer shattered one remote against a wall, fired another right through the TV screen. "The second time, a guy missed a block and [Meyer] just lost it," says Getherall. "We'd lost in the last second to Michigan State, and he went berserk—screaming, ready to cry almost. That's how intense he was."
Getherall, raised by a loud and proud Marine, learned to shrug off such tirades. He even thought it funny, at first, when late in that 1998 win over Michigan he saw Meyer reeling: eyes saucered, face gone pale, knocked nearly unconscious by a blast of pain. "My head!" Meyer roared. He was holding the earflaps of his headset, sinking to a knee as if his usual storm—all that furious ambition and energy—had backfired at the source. "Agggghhh!" Meyer bellowed again. "My head!"
It felt, Meyer would later say, like his skull was being split by an ax. He moved to the bench, caught his breath, got back up. He'd had headaches before but nothing like this. Any movement might bring back the pain; he felt it hovering. He was scared. As the clock spun down, every play, every twist, felt like a threat.
But hey, he was young then. Maybe he mellowed with age:
Success didn't bring relief. It only magnified his obsession, made the margins thinner, left him with chest pains. After the 2007 season, he confided to a friend that anxiety was taking over his life and he wanted to walk away.
Well, he supposedly made some pretty strict changes before taking the Buckeye job. How's that worked out? So far, so good, says his family.
After months of anticipation, many questions have been answered and our anxieties are slowly being laid to rest. It seems that we have the best of both worlds as a family right now. I have a dad who I can communicate with as much as I want daily, and he does what he loves every day.
He has proved the impossible to be very possible this season. You can win, and you can live a family life when you step out of the office. There is such thing as balance, and it has been working very well.
Well, maybe, like, not always so good:
Breaking No. 4 -- working no more than nine hours a day -- couldn't be helped. Meyer lived up to all but one of his promises today.
And maybe not potentially awesome in the future:
Meyer, uh, still hasn't lost a game yet. So when that starts happening more than 0 times a year, who's this 'crazy even for a football coach' person going to destroy first? Everyone else or himself?
These new rules seem to be short-term negatives for MSU and long-term negatives for the coaches and athletes involved in college football.
More calls, more texts, more letters, more staff, more pressure, more money, less regulation.
Good work. I'm sure nothing bad will come of this.